Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: PA exports; PA Turnpike financial woes

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Sep 21, 2016 9:30 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, September 22, 2016:

Pennsylvania ranks 19th in the world by gross domestic product, according to Joseph Burke, Deputy Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Office of International Business Development.   That places the state between Turkey and Switzerland.

"We can track . . . what originates in Pennsylvania . . . when something crosses the border there is a harmonized code that is attached to it and the government can track what travels back and forth."

Burke described a universal product tracking code that allows every product to be categorized and sourced.  It is this tracking that allows the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis to determine the state's $686 billion GDP.  More than 5% of that is derived from foreign exports.  $39.4 billion in exports, to be exact.  The top five exporting industries in 2015 were chemicals, transportation equipment, computer and electronic products, machinery and primary metals.

Jennifer Black, Executive Director of Export Development at the DCED correlated the state's exports with in-state jobs:  "About one in five Pennsylvania jobs depend on international trade - imports and exports."

While regulations and foreign trade agreements usually chafe economic development agencies and their efforts to expand business, Burke acknowledges that the state has a responsibility to conform to the global trade climate:  "We're moving forward, the rest of the world is globalizing, the rest of the world is making some pretty good products.  We sell them products, they send it back in different form, value added.  We need to be in the game . . . Pennsylvania is taking the stance that we want to be global, we want to sell our products globally." 

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is staging an event to connect businesses in the state with nations thay may want to purchase those products.

It's called Bringing the World to Pennsylvania and it provides the state's businesses the opportunity to meet with authorized trade representatives and discuss foreign market intelligence, agents and distributor candidates and industry and government contacts from 14 different countries.

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Joseph Burke, Deputy Secretary, DCED Office of International Business Development / Jennifer Black, Executive Director, DCED Office of International Business Development

Also, in 2007, the Pennsylvania Turnpike had a surplus of $1.76 billion.  At the same time, then Gov. Ed Rendell supported the idea of leasing the Turnpike to a private operator. 

Then came Act 44 - legislation that Turnpike Commission officials went along with that would take money generated from tolls on the Turnpike to pay for public transit in Pennsylvania.  That payment amounts to 450 million dollars a year. 

A recent audit by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found that surplus has now turned into a $4 billion deficit.   In the meantime, tolls continue to rise every year.

The Auditor General joins us on Wednesday's Smart Talk.

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Eugene DePasquale, Pennsylvania Auditor General

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